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District students continue to succeed

BY GRACE PATERAS | DECEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Students across the board in Iowa City continue to excel, ranking comparably high in the state, according to a report introduced to the School Board on Tuesday.

The 2013-14 annual progress report was presented to the board members at the meeting, showing growth in students from elementary, junior high, and high school levels.

“Our achievement is increasing,” Assistant Superintendent Becky Furlong said. “You can see this many ways by looking at data over time.”

One way to point out how students in the district excel is to look at ACT scores and National Merit scholars in the high schools, according to the report.

A reported 85 percent of students in the district who took the ACT assessment received composite scores of more than 20, according to the report.

The district ranks high compared with average Iowa ratings, which is 68 percent. The national rating is even lower, 57 percent.

Additionally, 29 students in the district were named National Merit scholars.

Students are offered rigorous classes and opportunities to take college courses along with great teachers and community support, Furlong said. She said she thinks those are the factors that directly correlate with student successes.

“Sometimes, we don’t realize how well our students do,” Furlong said. “It’s just outstanding how many National Merit scholars we have. Many districts are thrilled they have one or two every few years, while we consistently have 25 to 30 students every year. We forget that sometimes.”

However, younger students in the district, on average, have fallen behind on reading, math, and science proficiencies.

“Our percentages tend to be falling behind state’s averages,” board member Patti Fields said. “It surprised me because if you look at our data, we are falling behind in the state.”

The report showed support system statistics from a program that aims to help students and families overcome barriers to learning.

The Youth and Family Development Department provides programs for students such as guidance counselors, instructional coaches, reading support, and tutoring programs.

“The first thing I thought is just ‘awesome,’ ” board member Marla Swesey said. “That’s just a great number. I’m amazed at how we can serve those families and the number of students that we could serve.”

These programs aided a total of 4,983 students.

For younger students in the future, Furlong said, additional preschool-age students can be served by the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program funds.

Combined with Statewide Voluntary program funds and other funding, 384 students were served, which is 44 more than the previous years report.

“My goal is to have every 4-year-old whose parents want them to go to preschool, either with private providers or through the district,” Furlong said. “We’re working on it, but we’re not there yet.”


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